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57 volunteers cycle their way to fight malnutrition in South Sudan’s communities

“The walk is over. We will now reach distant communities with our bicycles”, Laura expressed with joy. Laura Idiongo, 23, is among the 57 community nutrition volunteers who received bicycles from World Vision for use as transport in visiting Juba’s communities.

The volunteers promote awareness of good infant feeding and hygiene practices, making referrals of children with malnutrition at the nutrition centers, among others.

This network of volunteers that World Vision has organized in partnership with South Sudan's Ministry of Health, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) help extensively campaign in keeping people aware of malnutrition and promote good nutrition practices.

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Laura has been a volunteer for two years now. “I would love to see malnutrition cases reduced, if not completely eradicated in our communities. Seeing the poor children suffer from malnutrition hurts me”, she shares.

She said the country’s long-running conflict resulting in poverty is one of the main causes of malnutrition. “Poverty stemmed from conflict breeding food insecurity and of course, malnutrition”, she adds.

Apart from helping their communities, volunteers like Laura (left) and Josephine develop strong bond of friendship and support in times of need.

 

A UNICEF report identifies malnutrition as a threat to South Sudanese children’s survival. It forecasts an increase in acute malnutrition cases from 860,000 in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2020.

Another volunteer Josephine Bakhita, expressed pride in working to help her people. “Health is everything. These children are the future generation. Without giving them a good foundation, then we are destroying their future”, she says.

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“I truly appreciate World Vision for the bicycles and allowing me to work for the good of the children of South Sudan,” Josephine adds. The program in Juba targets 84,912 children and over 19, 923 were already reached with nutrition services last month.

With the bicycles, the volunteers can engage with 20 households per day, which they can do only for half when walking the 5km distance between houses in the villages. Urban transport in Juba is a major challenge and with the bicycles, the women’s work is made easier and they are able to reach are areas in good time.

Jubek State Ministry of Health’s Nutrition Coordinator Dan Kwaje Lole has appreciated the partnership over the years. He encouraged the volunteers to focus more on the prevention of malnutrition by reaching more children with nutrition messages and doing screenings.

Operations Manager Gift Sibanda (middle) at the handover ceremony of the 57 bicycles to the community health volunteers which was also attended by Dan Kwaje Lole (right) from the Ministry of Health.

 

Seventy-three volunteers were recently recruited through the joint efforts with the Ministry of Health to support the existing 57 already at work for the campaign. “The women will reach more households and we improve the coverage of our nutrition services”, says Rahab Kimani, Nutrition Program Manager.

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Kimani added that there some risks such as the bicycles can be stolen or get broken over time, but the women are supported so they know how to take care of and protect the bicycles.

Gift Sibanda, World Vision’s Operations Manager says, “The distribution of these bicycles aims to strengthen community movement of volunteers under the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program. We hope to see improvement in the number of children reached in the communities.”

The handover ceremony was also a celebration of the volunteers' efforts to keep their children and families healthy.

 

Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Officer